France Arrests 20 Suspected Islamists in Dawn Raids
Police in France have arrested some 20 suspected Islamists in dawn raids, French media say.
Several of the raids were in Toulouse, where gunman Mohamed Merah operated, but also took place in other cities.
Merah, who killed seven people in three separate attacks, was buried in Toulouse on Thursday after being killed in a shoot-out with police on 22 March.
Police have been hunting possible accomplices but sources said there was no direct link with the raids.
Merah’s brother, Abdelkader, has been charged with aiding him and police are hunting a third man said to be involved in the theft of a scooter that Merah used in all the killings.
The raids were carried out by the domestic intelligence agency, the DCRI, with the help of the elite Raid police commando group, Agence France-Presse news agency reports.
Several of the raids were in Toulouse, particularly the Mirail quarter, sources told AFP.
But there were also raids in Nantes, which is believed to be a centre for the Forsane Alizza (Knights of Pride) group, to which Merah had been linked by some French media.
It is a Salafist group that was dissolved by the interior ministry in an earlier investigation.
Other arrests took place in Lyon, Marseille, Paris, Nice and Le Mans.
Police sources told AFP that some weapons had been seized, including at least one Kalashnikov rifle.
After Merah’s killings, French President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered police to evaluate the level of danger posed by those known to sympathise with radical Islamists.
Merah, 23, was buried at the Cornebarrieu cemetery in Toulouse on Thursday. His body was accompanied by around 15 men, although it was not clear who they were.